Cold but Beautiful: Remembering Christmas in Belgium

A few years ago my husband and I spent 10 days driving through Belgium over the Christmas holidays. We drove from London to Dover where we took the ferry to Dunkirk, and then journeyed through Ostend, Damme, Bruges, Antwerp, Mechelen, Brussels and Ypres. The weather was cold and windy which almost dampened our spirits, however the beautiful nativity scenes, jolly Christmas markets and warming hot chocolates made it one of our most memorable European Christmases.

In Ostend we stayed at the Empire Hotel, which was conveniently located and had a fantastic happy hour. It was here we had the best seafood dinner of our lives when we went to Apero Fish Palace. The small fishmonger had seafood counters displaying all kinds of delicacies from the sea as well as a few tables and chairs for people who wanted to dine in. We drank local white wine and ate oysters, mussels and bouillabaisse.

In Bruges we enjoyed walking through the beautiful city, soaking in the Christmassy atmosphere and popping into the numerous little shops and cafes. Our favourites were the Dumon Chocolatier where we bought some yummy goodies to take home, and the super posh cuppa at The Gulliver Tree that warmed our insides on such a cold day.

The highlight of Antwerp was the stunning architecture of the Cathedral of Our Lady, where we stayed for an evening mass. Outside of the Cathedral is the famous sculpture of the Appelman builders of the Cathedral. We also enjoyed the Christmas market here and visited the Antwerp Zoo at night for a Chinese-inspired lights display.

We left Antwerp via Kriegsgräberstätte in Lommel, the largest German war cemetery from WW11. We then crashed our car in Retie, Retry and were stranded overnight before we could start making our way to Brussels via Mechelen.

The highlight of Brussels was the beauty of the city centre. The architecture was very European and the city was also easy to navigate by foot. However it was very touristy and finding good food or convenient parking at reasonable prices was difficult. We most enjoyed the Atomium sculpture outside of the city centre and our visit to the very entertaining Mini Europe museum.

On the drive back to London, we paid reverence to the many war cemeteries commemorating allied soldiers that died in WW1.

Amazing fresh oysters at Apero Fish Balance in Ostend.

Amazing fresh oysters at Apero Fish Palace in Ostend.

Fresh bread and butter went beautifully with the salty cold oysters.

Fresh bread and butter went beautifully with the salty oysters.

Seafood dinner date night in Ostend.

Seafood dinner date night in Ostend.

Without a doubt this is the best bouillabaisse I have ever had, at the Apero Fish Palace in Ostend.

Without a doubt this was the best bouillabaisse I have ever had, at the Apero Fish Palace in Ostend.

Beautiful nature on the road as we drive from Ostend to Damme.

Beautiful nature on the road as we drive from Ostend to Damme.

The beautify of Belgium's nature.

The beauty of Belgium’s nature.

The main building in the centre of Damme.

The main building in the centre of Damme.

I found this quaint pottery family decorating a house garden in Damme.

I found this quaint pottery family decorating a residential garden in Damme.

Rustic graffiti on Burgstraat 5 in Damme.

Rustic graffiti on Burgstraat 5 in Damme.

We stumbled upon these interesting sculptures attached to a secondhand bookstore on Burgstraat 5 in Damme.

We stumbled upon these interesting sculptures attached to a secondhand bookstore in Damme.

The historic centre of Bruges is magnificent.

The historic centre of Bruges is magnificent.

We purchased some chocolates from the Dumon Chocolatier.

We purchased some chocolates from the Dumon Chocolatier.

We strolled the main streets of Bruges at leisure.

We strolled the main streets of Bruges at leisure.

Ice skaters in Bruges.

Ice skaters in Bruges.

People go skating in the middle of Bruges.

People go skating in the middle of Bruges.

Bruges is about cafe life.

Bruges is about cafe life.

We watched a harp performance at the Church of Our Lady in Bruges.

We watched a harp performance at the Church of Our Lady in Bruges.

A cute sunflower smiles from a street window.

A cute sunflower smiles from a street window.

We had a cosy cup of tea to warm up at the Gulliver Tree cafe.

We had a cosy cup of tea to warm up at the Gulliver Tree cafe.

Walking along Bruges canals.

Walking along Bruges canals.

A chocolate nativity scene by the Bruge Cchoclade Gilde.

A chocolate nativity scene by the Bruge Choclade Gilde.

There are many small boutique shops that give Bruge its quaint character.

There are many small boutique shops that give Bruge its quaint character.

We loved the shop front at Choco Holic.

We loved the shop front at Choco Holic.

Stunning afternoon light by the Bruges canal.

Stunning afternoon light by the Bruges canal.

Night approaches in Bruges

Night approaches in Bruges

Significant sculptures outside the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp.

Significant sculptures outside the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp.

The Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp.

The Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp.

Antwerp had it's fair share of shops and cafes.

Antwerp had it’s fair share of shops and cafes.

A nativity scene

A nativity scene

Main square of Antwerp

Main square of Antwerp where the Christmas market is held.

It was freezing cold so I rugged up in my warm coat at the Antwerp Christmas market.

It was freezing cold so I rugged up in my warm coat at the Antwerp Christmas market.

Antwerp had many charming shops.

Antwerp had many charming shops.

Antwerp night zoo: beware the dragon

Antwerp night zoo: beware the dragon

Antwerp night zoo: red open flowers.

Antwerp night zoo: red open flowers.

Colourful lanterns

Colourful lanterns

Antwerp night zoo: bulbous white flowering trees.

Antwerp night zoo: bulbous white flowering trees.

Antwerp night zoo: a huge fish.

Antwerp night zoo: a huge fish.

The largest German military cemetery (Kriegsgräberstätte) from World War II in Western Europe is situated in Lommel.

The largest German military cemetery (Kriegsgräberstätte) from World War II in Western Europe is situated in Lommel.

German graves at Lommel.

German graves at Lommel.

Kasteel Wissekerke Bazel

Kasteel Wissekerke Bazel

Nativity Scene at Mechelen

Nativity Scene at St Rumbold’s Cathedral in Mechelen

Mechelen Grote Market

Mechelen Grote Market

Michelin main church in the evening

St Rumbold’s Cathedral at Mechelen in the evening

Edgar enjoys Brussels.

Edgar enjoys Brussels.

The main square of Brussels is breathtaking.

The main square of Brussels is breathtaking.

We had seafood paella and mussels for lunch in Brussels.

We had seafood paella and mussels for lunch in Brussels.

Seafood paella from a very touristy restaurant in the heart of Brussels.

Seafood paella from a very touristy restaurant in the heart of Brussels.

The famous Atomium sculpture outside of the centre of Brussels.

The famous Atomium sculpture outside of the centre of Brussels.

The Mini Europe museum, Edgar stands next to the miniature of Vilnius University.

The Mini Europe museum, Edgar stands next to the miniature of Vilnius University.

A windy, chilly patch of road in the Ypres salient.

A windy, chilly patch of road at the Ypres salient.

Prowse Point Military Cemetery for Commonwealth casualties of WW1.

Prowse Point Military Cemetery for Commonwealth casualties of WW1.

A modern memorial in Ypres commemorating the famous 1914 Christmas football game.

A modern memorial in Ypres commemorating the famous 1914 Christmas football game truce.

Berks Cemetery, close to "Hyde Park Corner" a road junction to the north of Ploegsteert Wood. Hill 63 was to the north-west and nearby were the 'Catacombs', deep shelters capable of holding two battalions, which were used from November 1916 onwards.

Berks Cemetery, close to “Hyde Park Corner” a road junction to the north of Ploegsteert Wood. Hill 63 was to the north-west and nearby were the “Catacombs”, deep shelters capable of holding two battalions, which were used from November 1916 onwards.

Near Hill 60, a WW1 battlesite and memorial in Ypres.

Near Hill 60, a WW1 battle site and memorial in Ypres.

Tyne Cot Cemetery, a memorial to commonwealth soldiers who died on the Ypres salient in WW1. It is the largest cemetery for commonwealth forces in the world.

Tyne Cot Cemetery, a memorial to commonwealth soldiers who died on the Ypres salient in WW1. It is the largest cemetery for commonwealth forces in the world.

Graves at Tyne Cot cemetery.

Graves at Tyne Cot cemetery.

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